by Patricia Fillmore
If you happen to be hiking around Halifax on a Wednesday morning, you might bump into a particularly joyful and talkative bunch of women, who would be all too happy to engage you in their conversation. And if you thought they were a little wacky… well you’d be right! Indeed, they are the Wednesday Wacky Women Walkers, and this month, they will be celebrating their 23rd anniversary. Together since the fall of 2000, this group, which numbers about 20 active members, has been hitting the trails religiously every week, and has no intention of stopping!
It all started in the fall of 2000, when Shirley McIntyre and Pat Leader, avid hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts, joined forces to start what they hoped would be a year-round women’s hiking group. Inspired by the popularity of a 6-week course offered by the Halifax Recreation Department at the time, Shirley and Pat contacted potential participants, and chose the Frog Pond – where anniversaries have been celebrated ever since – as the location for the introductory hike. 24 women showed up on Wednesday October 25th, a beautiful fall morning, for the first outing: it was a big success by all accounts. However, as luck – or ill luck – would have it, the following Wednesdays were rainy. Uncertain about the turnout, the founders debated whether to cancel: “But we had to set an example, says Pat. We were the leaders; we couldn’t back out!” They donned boots and raincoats, determined to continue despite the conditions, and soon became known as the “Wacky Walkers”. From then on, the group had its name.
With an abundance of parks, trails, wilderness areas, and beaches on their doorstep, the WWWWs aim for a different location almost every week through the course of the year. Previous destinations have ranged from gentle urban strolls to rugged and rocky seaside treks, with outings being adapted to the weather and the season. Favorite past hikes include the Wilderness Bluff, Long Lake Provincial Park, Polly’s Cove, Lawrencetown Beach, Shubenacadie Canal, and Point Pleasant Park, to name but a few. Simply put, there is not much terrain within an hour of Halifax on which the group has not set foot.
Soon after its foundation, the WWWWs added annual overnight trips, heading first to various members’ cottages and eventually to Mabou, Ingonish, and Cheticamp, for the Celtic Colours. Then it was off to Newfoundland, and finally, thanks to much research and hard work by Mary-Louise Mills, the current group leader, a contingent of the Wacky Walkers travelled to Great Britain, for weeklong – and sometimes very wet – hiking adventures.
What unites these women is without a doubt their love for nature and the belief that exercise is vital to maintaining not only a healthy body, but also a healthy mind. Most consider their regular Wednesday outings as an essential part of their psychological well-being. No interferences, except emergencies, allowed!” Ranging in age from 70 to 87, the group now has nine members over 80, among the most regular attendees. But beyond their appreciation for the outdoors, what makes this group unique is most certainly the relationships that have developed over the years. Weekly hikes – despite notalways-ideal weather – and overnight trips have cemented genuine bonds of friendship. They are there for each other; one might say that they have become sisters.
They are avid readers and travellers, as curious and concerned about the human condition as the condition of the planet we live on. They are involved in their communities, volunteering at church, fundraising for non-profit organizations, sitting on environmental committees, and singing in local choirs. Without question, they are role models for their children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. This is a cheerful, spunky, and opinionated bunch of women, and their joie de vivre is certainly contagious. But that is not to say they haven’t had their share of hardships. Several members have lost children, even grandchildren, some have lost spouses, many have battled with cancer and are still. But if it is true that “shared joy is a double joy and shared sorrow is half a sorrow,” then the Wednesday Wacky Women Walkers certainly have the recipe for dealing with life’s obstacles. As a recent “junior” recruit and the daughter of a member who passed away, I have been privileged to witness – and share – a small part of their special history.
After 22 years, this inspirational group still meets every Wednesday morning. And even if the hikes are a little shorter – and a little flatter – than they used to be, the friendships and camaraderie are just the same.